Shadow and Bone author says Netflix show fixes diversity issues in books

Author Leigh Bardugo had one huge demand when Arrival film writer Eric Heisserer came on board to adjust her well-known YA series Shadow and Bone for Netflix: “I want you to do this better than I did.”

Based mainly on the very first book in Bardugo’s preliminary “Grishaverse” trilogy, Shadow and Bone follows young mapmaker Alina as she finds her capability to summon sunshine efficient in blasting away an actual, concrete darkness that divides the kingdom. With her launching book, Bardugo wished to step far from the common middle ages England setting so typically seen in dream books and selected Imperial Russia as motivation for her world, Ravka. However while the setting itself bypassed the typical conventions, she leaned on a narrow worldview to occupy the legend.

“I was really echoing a lot of the fantasies I’d grown up with, which were very white, very straight sort of traditional Chosen One stories,” Bardugo informs Polygon.

Those who maintained with the Grisha books saw this advancement. While none of the main characters in the initial book were presented as particular races, much of the primary crucial gamers in the later books, particularly in the spinoff Crows duology and subsequent follow up series, were clearly specified to be nonwhite. Even some characters whose races were not clarified in the very first trilogy were specified in later installations. “As I wrote, as I gained more confidence, I started to write a world that looked a lot more like the world around me,” she states.

jesper, inej, and kaz standing in the darkness

Picture: David Appleby/Netflix

That mindful effort to diversify the cast was a concern for the series. Both Heisserer and Bardugo felt that the most natural modification for the tv program was to make Alina half-Asian. In regards to the series’ worldbuilding terminology, this indicated making her a descendent of Shu Han, the nation that approximately represents East Asia. After the casting call was put out, Heisserer clarified on Twitter, he did not wish to limit the casting to a particular ethnic background and “would rather find the right talent who can inform the look of Shu Han vs the other way around.” In the books, Ravka is at war with Shu Han over border disagreements. By making Alina part Shu, Bardugo states, “her journey as an outsider [became] even more poignant.”

Jessie Mei Li, who plays Alina, states that while Alina’s race isn’t the just crucial aspect of her, the heritage formed her character. It was something, she informs us, she had the ability to pull from her own reality experiences of being biracial.

“[Alina] spent her whole life being told she looks like the enemy. She’s had to stand up for herself and grow this thick skin, but she’s also so vulnerable,” Li states. “And she’s suspicious of new people and she’s soft-spoken because she doesn’t want anyone to feel that she’s aggressive. It was really nice to be able to bring some of my own experiences.”

alina sitting at a table with Marie and Nadia

Picture: David Appleby/Netflix

For Heisserer, it was similarly as crucial to hire a varied set of authors for the task. The showrunner states author Christina Pressure (Finding ‘Ohana, The Magicians) was especially necessary in developing the voice of the primary character.

“She helped shape that part of Alina that didn’t detract from the story that we were adapting, but gave an authenticity, and allowed Christina to speak some of her truth and some of her personal experience,” he states.

Though Shadow and Bone adjusts the very first book in the primary Grisha trilogy, everybody appears to concur that adjusting it now, with the complete trilogy and spinoffs having actually expanded the identities of the characters, advantages the series in the long run. Inej and Jesper, 2 6 of Crows characters now incorporated into the very first trilogy, are both characters of color. However especially, happy and skilled Grisha soldier Zoya, who for the majority of the very first book is at chances with Alina, was not exposed to be biracial till the very first book in the follow up series, King of Scars.

Clearer origins adds another layer to the complex relationship the soldier shares with Alina. Zoya, formally Grisha leader General Kirigan’s favorite soldier, feels threatened by Alina’s power and status. Her insults to Alina take on a new edge with their races directly involved, since Zoya is acutely aware of what it means to look like an outsider.

zoya in formal wear

Photo: Attila Szvacsek/Netflix

“Although she is very aware of her identity, and her race and where her parents come from, she also will use it as a dig or a means to hurt Alina because she knows as another mixed race woman, these things hurt,” says Sujaya Dasgupta, who plays Zoya. “She’s been probably told all these digs and horrible things.”

Weaving in these characters and actively changing Alina’s race immediately bolsters the diversity in the original story. The Grishaverse may have started off in a traditional, white-centric way, but the show, which puts a young biracial woman at the center of an epic fantasy, mirrors where Bardugo’s writing has gone in the nine years since the very first book debuted.

Shadow and Bone premieres on Netflix on April 23.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.